The other day I was going on a country drive when a turkey flew up out of a ditch and over the road, right in front of my car. I came to a stop so a second turkey could do the same and I found myself surprised. Not by the turkeys crossing the road, but I honestly forgot that turkeys knew how to fly. Though Dala claims they can’t fly, they’re just really good at jumping and flapping their wings.
The encounter made me think of a class one time when I was younger, when my teacher was telling us about his weekend turkey hunt. He was in a brush/wooded area and had been there for about an hour waiting for a turkey to come along. Every now and again, he’d use his turkey call, and get no response. Growing frustrated, he was about ready to find a new place to try again but decided to give the call one last shot. That’s when he heard a turkey behind him, probably twenty or thirty yards away. He tried to get closer, only to have the thing fly off and disappear into the bushes. Knowing it was still somewhere nearby, he’d wait a bit and use the call, only to find it in a completely different spot than where he expected it to be, once again about twenty to thirty yards away and hidden from view. He’d use the call, only to hear nothing but silence, and try to crawl closer again, only for it to fly away. Over and over he’d use the call to no answer, then he’d get an answer, always in a new, hidden, and unexpected spot. This went on for hours before the sun was starting to go down and he had to head home. He joked that he didn’t know if the turkey was the smartest, trickiest bird he ever tried to get, or if it was just so dumb that its randomly wandering around out of idiocy saved its life.
The rest of the class that day, we joked about turkeys and compared wild ones to domestic ones and how wild ones were allegedly much smarter than domesticated ones. We debated whether or not domestic turkeys really will stand in a ditch in the rain and risk drowning because they’re not smart enough to find higher ground even as the water rises around them (I think the class was evenly split). We talked about why, if turkey is so good, it’s unfair that we use their meat mostly for cold sandwiches and leave the good recipes only for thanksgiving. We learned to make turkey calls, gobbling around like a bunch of idiots, and just generally having a good time. I don’t think I learned anything in class that day, except that if you get a bunch of high schoolers gobbling their head off, teachers down the hall will come over to complain, but it doesn’t do much good when your teacher is the instigator and loving the shit out of it.
Here’s what I know about turkeys. A single, wild turkey seems to be pretty smart, doing turkey shit and enjoying life. A flock of wild turkeys though, as I’ve had the chance to see quite a few in my time, always seems to act as if their life is one big game of follow the leader where everyone is simultaneously the leader and simultaneously the follower. Everyone seems to be making decisions. No one seems to be making decisions. Somehow, the flock functions. I don’t even fucking know.
Domesticated turkeys? I’ve never encountered any to be honest with you, so I can’t actually speak to them. People who I’ve talked to though, who have one as a pet, swear they’re great. People who I’ve talked to though, who raise them in flocks for market, seem to have less of an opinion of them. On the one hand, I’m doubtful because I often don’t think we give animals enough credit, especially when we consider them a food source. On the other hand though . . .